History of the Milk Products Section, Department of Agriculture, South Australia

Prepared by: Jim Marshall

The Milk Products Section began operation mainly by undertaking the responsibility laid down under the Dairy Industry Act 1928, for generally overseeing the post-farm gate side of the industry. These duties included:

  1. Licensing and inspection of all premises where milk and dairy products were processed or stored prior to marketing.

  2. Setting and maintaining methods and standards for all aspects of fair dealing between farmers and factories.

  3. Ensuring, in conjunction with health authorities, that all products were wholesome and safe for consumers.

  4. Education, training and certification of key personnel responsible for ensuring that regulatory requirements were met. Courses and certificates were provided for:

    • Milk and Cream Testers and Graders
    • Buttermakers
    • Cheesemakers
    • Milk and Cream Processors

    In 1973 South Australia undertook responsibility for writing and revising the National Cheesemakers' course.

  5. Recording and reporting statistics relating to the production of milk and dairy products.
Over the years the Milk Products Section changed from mainly regulatory duties to a wider range of functions, assisting the industry in many ways. The Section made its biggest contribution to the industry in the period between 1953 and the early 1980's, when Graham Itzerott was in charge of the Dairy Branch. An example of many services he introduced was the Cheese Starter Service; under this, cultures were provided to all factories twice weekly, thus eliminating the need for each to undertake bacteriological work in laboratories which were mostly not adequately equipped or staffed. The service helped South Australia develop a reputation as the "Cheese State", based on the quality of export and local market cheese.

In 1964, when Brian Hannaford was Milk Products Adviser, the Section consisted of seven officers, including one based in Mount Gambier where, among other duties he provided laboratory services. A laboratory also operated in Adelaide, performing chemical and bacteriological testing of local market and export products, as well as running the Cheese Starter Service.

In the early 1960's Australia began exporting cheese to Japan. This market had huge potential and required modernization of factories and the raising of quality standards. Cheese production changed from 'rinded' to 'rindless' form. The Section was heavily involved in this upgrading for a number of years.

Under Graham's supervision milk products staff became integrated into the industry as fellow workers and advisers rather than regulatory officials. They took on a range of work including trouble shooting, office bearing in state and national industry organizations, show judging and liaison with CSIRO and other state and national authorities.

Milk Products staff worked with State and Commonwealth staff in preparing and keeping under review The Australian Code of Practice for Dairy Factories and Australian Standards. A research project was undertaken on practical aspects of cheese maturation, storage and marketing and the result of this, together with other technical items, were published in the Australian Journal of Dairy Technology and South Australian Journal of Agriculture.

The Milk Products Section probably played its greatest roles in the 1960's and 70's. As the industry consolidated into fewer and bigger farms and factories, outside influences such as competition between manufacturers for suppliers and markets and increasingly strict market requirements dictated, without the need for Government supervision or regulation, that the basic standards prescribed under the Dairy Industry Act were not just met but far exceeded.

In 1994 the Government decided that the industry no longer needed the services of the Milk Products Section, which had consisted of one man, Jim Marshall,since 1988. He was able to continue as a private contractor for the industry performing many of his former tasks such as product grading and personnel training.

References:

1. FIFTY YEARS OF PROGRESS - Published in 1938 by SA Farmers Coop Union*

2. THE FIRST CENTURY - Southern Farmers Group* 1988 ISBN 0 73163073 4 Author: Tony Baker

3. DAIRY VALE - A History of Co-operation - Dairy Vale Co-operative Ltd+1988 ISBN 0 7316 3765 8 Author: Rob Linn

4. PEOPLE PLACES AND CHEESE - In South Australia 1842-1984 - G Pickhaver 1986 ISBN 0 9588731 0 0 Authors: G Pickhaver and J Marshall

5. MARSHALL, J AND WAUGH, I (1978) - Aust. J Dairy Technol. 33, 88-92

6. "STIFF CHEDDAR - THE CHEDDAR MAKING PROCESS" 93-042 SA Film Corporation (Short Film and Video Section) Reviewed by Hammond,LA (1994) Aust. J Dairy Technol. 49, 53.

* Now National Foods Ltd
+ Now Dairy Farmers Co-op Ltd

Rob Linn's book is far more than a history of Dairy Vale; it contains a thoroughly researched and referenced history of the whole of the SA dairy industry in its first century, before Dairy Vale had its first beginnings. The State Government's role in this period is very well outlined. In fact the entire history of Dairy Vale is presented within the context of the broad history of the whole SA industry. This book must be regarded as essential prescribed reading for anybody interested in any aspect of the industry's history.